MAHATMA Gandhi, in addition to being the leader of the decades-long Indian Independence movement that started in the 1910s, spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the self and how we can be better individuals. In doing so, he reasoned, we can better serve others and build families and communities that help one another and alleviate suffering. The issues that plague most people worldwide include poverty, hunger, abuse, exploitation and the lack of access to rights such as education and healthcare. 

But how can we, as individuals, stand in the gap and meet the needs of people? By learning and following these simple lessons, we can become better human beings and build the kind of nation that helps one another. 

Here are 5 lessons in humanity taught by Mahatma Gandhi:

Find yourself, by serving others

There are various people-groups and each has their own educational challenges, healthcare shortages, environmental concerns and lack of access to the resources they need to live wholesome lives. We may not share the same experience as others and may therefore not always be able to fully empathize with their struggles. But by stepping forward to help others in the ways that we can, we may find that the best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We are often not able to explore what we have in common with other people but one thing we do share is our desire to live with access to our basic rights. One example of this is helping victims of natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. When we do something, even a small act, that helps someone in desperate need, we create societies that move forward on the concept of selflessness and empathy.

If you know the truth, come forward and speak up 

Certain topics are difficult to broach, such as abducted children forced into red-light districts or even abused and beaten senior citizens being chased out of their homes because caring for them has become a burden. These, and other, incidents and crimes are uncomfortable to discuss, but this means that the core problems are swept under the rug and not addressed. But NGOs nevertheless take this challenging step of bringing these issues to light because of their desire to see people living better lives. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind.” NGO volunteers and leaders frequently have to work against the tide and are often told that their hard work may not make a noticeable change. But individuals and organizations continue to contribute their time and effort to rescue people from distressing situations and the result is that entire communities are lifted up out of misery and given the chance to rebuild their lives with hope for their future.

Choose the path of non-violence 

Mahatma Gandhi’s advocacy of peace and non-violence has made him one of the most popular Indians around the world, with the UN designating the day of his birth International Day of Non-Violence in 2007. But as Gandhi reflected, violence takes on many forms and poverty is the worst form of violence.” Poverty leads to more devastating conditions such as hunger, disease, illiteracy, unemployment and the exploitation of the impoverished. To lessen the suffering of people who are struggling under the burden of poverty, it is essential to find and invest in impactful and innovative methods to reach the goal of poverty alleviation. Each one of us can play a part toward this effort. By volunteering our time or helping organizations improve the lives of people, we can change the trajectory of people’s lives and impact generations. In contributing to ending poverty, we choose the path of non-violence.

Be compassionate to animals

We share the earth with animals, and this coexistence requires consideration and compassion on the part of humans. Humans have different forms of relationships with animals including personal relationships for companionship or working relationships with equine animals for transportation. It is incumbent upon humans to ensure that these relationships do not cause pain and suffering to animals. Some examples of this include ensuring there is little to no encroachment into animal habitats or stopping the abuse, exhaustion and overwork of working animals. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” India has strict laws preventing animal cruelty in the form of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The act and its multiple amendments outline the responsibility and necessity of preventing needless abuse and exploitation. But animal abuse is still widespread. Being informed of the rights of animals, raising awareness on how we can prevent harm and provide comfort, and donating to animal welfare organizations can help us become better custodians of Earth and its inhabitants.

If you desire change, be the change 

Mahatma Gandhi’s path of self-reflection encouraged people to introspect and change the world by changing themselves. We often come across people in circumstances that move us so deeply that we wish for their lives to improve. But if we want to make the lives of people better, the answer is within us. Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In his writings, Mahatma Gandhi shared that the world is merely a reflection of its people and to make a positive impact on the world, there first needs to be a personal change. The decision of even one person to help someone else can make a far-reaching impact on an individual, family, neighborhood, community and the entire nation. When we think of the things that affect us personally, that is a good starting point to explore ways we can impact the lives of others for good.

Mahatma Gandhi has influenced the world, beyond India. He posthumously took on the role of teacher to leaders around the world such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela and is synonymous with peace and compassion. In our Independence Day celebrations, let’s reflect on the lessons taught by Mahatma Gandhi and see the good in people, and help themand support NGOs working across India to make the world a better place:

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